ESPN's Morgan about Miller: `Jon has helped me lighten up'

MEDIA WATCH

April 02, 1999|By MILTON KENT

People who have been in long-term relationships say that at a certain point a little bit of one's personality begins to rub off on the partner.

As ESPN prepares to begin its 10th season of baseball coverage Sunday night with the season opener between the Colorado Rockies and the defending National League champion San Diego Padres, analyst Joe Morgan says that is certainly true about his on-air partnership with Jon Miller.

"Jon has helped me to lighten up about the game," Morgan said the other day on a national conference call. "As the players used to say, `It's not life and death to the fans and to management, only to us.' Jon has helped me to realize that it is just a game."

As an example, Morgan points to the play a few years ago when then-Montreal outfielder Larry Walker handed a caught fly ball to a Los Angeles fan, thinking the third out had been made when, in fact, it was the second.

Morgan said such a play would have infuriated him, even after his playing days, but that Miller has taught him to see the hilarity in such moments.

"Now, I can laugh at it, and that's attributable to Jon," Morgan said.

For his part, Miller, the former Orioles radio voice, says Morgan has had an effect on his work, as well, serving as a window into the mind of the audience.

"We're having a one-sided conversation with the viewers, and sometimes I'll start waxing eloquently about something that I think is interesting," Miller said. "Then, I get a quick glance from Joe, and I know that maybe it's time to move on. Sometimes, you get that knowing glance from your spouse, and that says it all. I am looking forward to at least another 10 years together."

Miller and Morgan will call Sunday's game from Monterrey, Mexico, at 8 p.m. Then, on Monday, ESPN carries a tripleheader, leading off with Los Angeles playing host to Arizona at 4 p.m., the St. Louis-Milwaukee matchup around 7 p.m., and concluding with Oakland playing host to the Yankees.

Closer to home, the Orioles open Monday against Tampa Bay on Channel 13, with Michael Reghi, Jim Palmer and repatriated analyst Mike Flanagan in the booth.

The station will air an hour of pre-game festivities at 2 p.m., with the first pitch coming around 3 p.m. Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra return for another season on the radio, with WBAL (1090 AM) beaming its signals throughout the day Monday.

The right call, this time

Well, it seems that ESPN was right on the money a couple of months ago when it reported that Maryland guard Steve Francis would pass up his senior season for the NBA. We said here at the time that we would be paying attention, and it's only fair to acknowledge that they got it right.

Still, the reporting did have a "let's throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks and if we're wrong, no one will remember it" feel to it. It worked this time, but it won't always.

A final recap

By all accounts, Sunday's women's NCAA title game between Purdue and Duke was one of the worst ever, and Monday's men's showdown between Connecticut and Duke was a game for the ages.

And yet CBS' national rating of 17.2 (a 17.3 in Baltimore) was its lowest since it started carrying the men's tournament in 1982.

But ESPN's 4.3 cable rating made Sunday's game not only the most watched women's game in the cable outlet's 19-year history, but also the second-most watched college basketball game -- men's or women's -- ever at ESPN.

For perspective, though, the terrifically contested men's game was seen in nearly six times more homes than the terribly played women's game.

Award season

Fox and ESPN's respective baseball coverages will vie for the best live series honors later this month at the Sports Emmy awards in New York. Their competition in that category will come from NBC's NBA package and golf tour coverage, as well as ABC's college football.

In the outstanding special category, Fox's coverage of the night Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' home run record is nominated against these four events: the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race on TNN, the Daytona 500 on CBS,Super Bowl XXXII on NBC, and the Belmont Stakes on ABC.

Finally, it's worth noting that HBO has captured a coveted Peabody award for its series of sports documentaries. The Peabody, has come to be thought of for broadcasting in the same sense as the Pulitzer Prizes in print media.

Around the dial

Tom Davis' baseball show, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," moves from Home Team Sports to Channel 54, starting at 11: 30 a.m. Sunday, and his first guest is expected to be new Orioles vice president John Angelos in one of his first television interviews.

A couple of big horse races that may serve as predictors for the Kentucky Derby air tomorrow, starting with the Flamingo Stakes on ABC (Channel 2, 3: 30 p.m.), followed by the Santa Anita Derby, with leading Kentucky contender Prime Timber, on Fox (Channel 45, 5 p.m.)

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